Northwest Georgia region tournaments
7-AAAA at Cass
5-AAA at Cartersville
7-AA at Calhoun
6-A at Trion/Darlington
TUNNEL HILL, Ga. — Any basketball team with a 21-3 record has its strengths, obvious areas of dominance that should show up in the stats.
The Northwest Whitfield Lady Bruins, though, are an anomaly. The team's numbers just don't add up to 21-3. There is no go-to player: Senior guard Halle Ford is the team's leading scorer at just over 10 points per game. They aren't very big -- sophomores Payton Maret and Mary Kate Allen are the tallest, listed at 6-foot -- and the Lady Bruins aren't dominant on the backboards, with senior Macy Weeks the leading rebounder at 5.3 per game.
They also aren't particularly fast, and with a team shooting success rate of 43 percent, they don't regularly light teams up from the outside. So what makes this team tick?
It's a question coach Greg Brown has a ready answer for.
"First of all, we've got a group of five seniors that are just great leaders," said Brown, whose team is the subregion 7B-AAAA No. 1 seed heading into this week's region tournament at Cass. "The next thing is team chemistry. They get along in the gym and outside it, and that's such a big thing with girls. To a coach it's over half the battle to get them to want to play with and for each other instead of the individual."
Ford, who also leads Northwest with 4.5 assists and 3.5 steals per game, said togetherness is the biggest difference from a team last year that was the region runner-up but lost in the first round of the state tournament.
"We just like each other," Ford said. "There is no jealousy on this team, and we go out expecting to win."
But there's more than just getting along going on here. What doesn't show up in the stats is a fierce level of competition on a squad that is very deep and a program that has preached such play since the coaching years of Ron Wheeler and Margaret Stockburger.
"It's expected from day one," Brown said of the team's full-court, all-out playing style. "They know if they are going to play in this program they have to go all out or someone else will. The competition part of it is such a key because we have girls who work their tails off in practice just to get some playing time."
What the Lady Bruins lack in star power they make up for in quantity. Four players -- seniors Ford, Weeks, Mallory Souther and Kerrigan King -- average 8 to 10 points, and Brown regularly puts 10 players on the floor during a game. It's also a motivated team, pushed by the way last season ended.
"Finish has been our motto from day one this year," Brown said. "We made a run late last year to the region championship game and were tied at halftime, but we just didn't finish. That was the first thing we started talking about when we met in the weight room this summer, and it's been at the forefront of everything we've done this season."
Taking that next step won't be easy as subregion rival Heritage is hoping to get another shot at the Lady Bruins after two close losses and the other subregion has strong teams in River Ridge, Pickens County and Gilmer County.
"We're going to get everybody's best shot from here on out, and we're ready for that," Brown said. "We've finished the regular season well, but we haven't really finished anything yet."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...